dis·​tend di-ˈstend How to pronounce distend (audio)
distended; distending; distends

transitive verb

: extend
the main outlines of the land yet lay clearly distended before themNorman Douglas
: to enlarge, expand, or stretch out (as from internal pressure) : swell
a distended abdomen

intransitive verb

: to become enlarged, expanded, or stretched out
causing the stomach to distend

Did you know?

The history of the word distend stretches back to the Latin verb tendere—a root whose kin have really expanded the English language. To find evidence of this expansion, look to words that include "tend" or "tent"; many have tendere, which means "to stretch, extend, or spread," in their family tree. Perhaps the simplest example is tent, which names a shelter made from a piece of material stretched over a frame. You'll also find the influence of tendere in extend, tendon, contend, portend, and tendency.

Choose the Right Synonym for distend

expand, amplify, swell, distend, inflate, dilate mean to increase in size or volume.

expand may apply regardless of the manner of increase (such as growth, unfolding, addition of parts).

a business that expands every year

amplify implies the extension or enlargement of something inadequate.

amplify the statement with details

swell implies gradual expansion beyond a thing's original or normal limits.

the bureaucracy swelled to unmanageable proportions

distend implies outward extension caused by pressure from within.

a distended abdomen

inflate implies expanding by introduction of air or something insubstantial and suggests a vulnerability to sudden collapse.

an inflated ego

dilate applies especially to expansion of circumference.

dilated pupils

Examples of distend in a Sentence

an abdomen distended by disease
Recent Examples on the Web The dress had been constructed from a boudoir-ish bodice, which distended into a full-skirted ballgown, giving the impression of deliberate deshabillé, as if the design had been left unfinished on the mannequin. Daniel Rodgers, Vogue, 17 Apr. 2024 Their heads are twizzling, their eyes bulging, their teeth ground to the gums, their bowels distended. Brian T. Allen, National Review, 23 Dec. 2023 The silhouettes are distended and reveal the skin beneath these big cobwebs of yarn. Daniel Rodgers, Vogue, 6 Sep. 2023 At 6-foot-3, pushing 330 pounds, his appearance was misshapen by a stomach distended with fluid. Max Blau, ProPublica, 21 Aug. 2023 An ultrasound revealed that Sugar’s stomach was significantly distended and inflamed and that her pancreas was swollen and inflamed, according to the affidavit. Jonathan Edwards, Washington Post, 16 Aug. 2023 At once both rushed and distended, the show takes an all-too-real issue — or rather, set of interrelated issues — and renders them so operatically as to read artificial. Alison Herman, Variety, 4 Aug. 2023 Kamm has resisted the urge to fit glittery LED headlights, distended Turbo arches, or the default RS ducktail. Tim Pitt, Robb Report, 11 July 2023 The personality cult is blessedly absent from Friend—according to Immanuel Kim, this is typical of later works of North Korean literature—and the book is almost entirely free of the magniloquent political declarations that distend many socialist realist works. Sophie Pinkham, The New York Review of Books, 17 Nov. 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'distend.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Latin distendere, from dis- + tendere to stretch — more at thin

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of distend was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near distend

Cite this Entry

“Distend.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distend. Accessed 15 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


dis·​tend dis-ˈtend How to pronounce distend (audio)
: to stretch or bulge out in all directions : swell

Medical Definition


transitive verb
dis·​tend dis-ˈtend How to pronounce distend (audio)
: to enlarge or stretch out (as from internal pressure)
distended veins

intransitive verb

: to become expanded
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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